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- Physician-assisted dying
- end-of-life care
- definition/determination of death
- care of the dying patient
- attitudes toward death
- ethics committees/consultation
- informed consent
- philosophical ethics
There is a growing trend to practise physician-assisted dying (death) (PAD) under the premise of providing quality palliative care in consensual and non-consensual life-ending situations.1 The WHO envisages palliative care as a comprehensive system of managing pain and distressing symptoms without intending to shorten the end-of-life (EOL) trajectory.1 In assisted dying, the EOL trajectory is shortened to relieve suffering.1 Bundling PAD with palliative care is precarious because PAD: (1) contravenes the Hippocratic principle of ‘do not kill’; (2) transgresses cultural and religious values of some patients, families and healthcare professionals; and (3) violates basic human rights.2
Voluntary refusal of food and fluids (VRFF) is a legal method of PAD, although medical and societal acceptability is uncertain.3 Etkind reported a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis who desired to end life because of mental anguish and fear of unbearable future suffering.4 The patient chose VRFF to hasten death after the onset of bulbar disease progression. In this paper we comment on: (1) unbearable suffering as an indication for PAD; (2) VRFF as a means to hasten death; (3) efficacy of continuous deep sedation (CDS) for optimal control of distress from VRFF; and (4) bundling assisted dying with palliative and hospice care.
When deciding on the use of CDS, severity of suffering is difficult to quantify objectively.5 The interpretation of the adjectives ‘refractory’ and …
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